From July 26 to July 31, my wife, teenage stepson and I were in Colorado, first to visit an old friend in Boulder, and then to participate in the 76th annual meeting of the ASA in Golden (outside of Denver).
We started things off with a geology tour of the Front Range, including the Red Rocks, and Dinosaur Ridge. Knowing almost nothing about geology, I learned a lot, and was as impressed as everyone said I would be at the magnificent views and scenery of the Rocky Mountains. I have spent a lot of time in the Alps, and the Rockies are at least as grand.
The actual conference began the next day (Saturday the 28th). After a wonderful plenary lecture by climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, I moderated the first Biological Sciences section of the meeting. Then after lunch, I went to the second Biology session, where I presented my talk on The Biochemical Teleology of Evolution. As I expected, there were some questions and comments, but not as much resistance to the idea of bringing teleology back into biology as I had anticipated. Parts of the talk included some of the material I have posted here recently about the Non-Conservation Principle in biology.
In the same session, Josh Swamidass, whom I have come to know from the Biologos blog, presented a fascinating idea about human genealogy (as opposed to genetics), in which he stated (correctly, in my view) that there is nothing contrary to science in believing that a single couple (Adam and Eve) are the progenitors of the entire human race, assuming that there were also other people alive outside of the Garden of Eden. That talk was very controversial, and there were many arguments and discussions about the idea, even after the session.
In the third and final Biological Sciences session, I was very happy to hear two talks focusing on the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis as a new and exciting development in evolutionary theory. Perry Marshall and Emily Ruppel Herrington (both friends of mine) presented these two talks, and again, a good deal of discussion was stimulated.
As in every conference, the best part is meeting old friends and making new ones. I was fortunate enough to meet several people whom I had come to know online from the Facebook group Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection (CCNS) and from my Twitter feed. Jeff Greenberg, John Pohl, Dana Oleskiewicz, and Kurt Wood were among those.
I was also thrilled to meet Leslie Wickman, the new Executive Director of ASA, and to catch up with lots of old pals in the science and Christianity movement, especially the previous Executive Director and old friend, Randy Isaac, who has guest posted on this blog (and hopefully will do so again).
One of the high points of the conference for me was the daily worship service, reminding all of us that science is derived from God’s creative majesty. On Sunday morning, Pastor Peter Hiett delivered one of the most powerful sermons I have ever experienced, bringing almost everyone to tears. His theme was “Daddy Love” and he talked about God’s love for His children in analogy with our love for our own kids. Not a novel theme, but the content and delivery were both stunning and overpowering.
On Monday morning, after an excellent plenary talk by Jim Peterson (the editor of the ASA journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith) about the ethical and religious implications of the new gene-editing technique called CRISPR, we drove our rented car back to Denver airport and flew home to Maryland, getting home about 11 PM.
I always get very tired after a conference, mostly from the intensity of the discussions, and the degree of thinking required. This one was no exception, but we were not able to take much rest. The next day we got up at 6 AM and went to our Church, where we had made a commitment to teach a science class at Vacation Bible School for the rest of the week. In addition, I had meetings to attend every night of the week after getting home.
So today, Friday, I am finally able to catch a breath, write and post this blog, and prepare for what comes next. But I am not complaining. Instead I thank God for the blessings of my life, which include the ability to remain active in the three things I love the most: science, my Christian faith, and the love of my wife (not necessarily in that order).